Monday, February 21, 2011

Limitations of the "Canadian" Ram Tank

BC Regiment and Ram Tank, July 1944, England. Libary and ArchivesCanada.
The story of Canada's Second World War "Ram" tank emphasizes the connection between the American and Canadian automobile industries.  While the direction of C.D. Howe's Department of Munitions and Supply is not to be understated, Canadian industry was not without its weaknesses.  Canada's official historian of the Second World War, C.P. Stacey noted that those industries which were established before the war were strongly turning out materiel for the war effort by 1941.  Stacey's tally includes, "over 383 million rounds of small arm ammunition, some 17,800 Bren guns, more than 1300 field guns and, above all - for Canada had a well-developed peacetime automotive industry - over 189,000 mechanical transport vehicles."  (Stacey, 48-49)  All of the above figures were increased in the following year and artillery munitions, naval and anti-aircraft guns, small arms, airplanes and ships were added to the growing production numbers.
A Ram II tank of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps during a training exercise, England, 22 December 1942. Library and Archives Canada Online.

With this herculean effort in mind, when it comes to the Ram tank's production, the dependence of Canadian industry upon American parts betrays a key weakness.  No engines for tanks or aircraft were built in Canada.  The Ram was also reliant on American cast steel hull tops, cast steel turrets, engines, transmissions and Browning machine-guns.  The Ram's design, (purportedly influenced by the British Tank Mission to the United States), may have had great influence on the American Sherman.  It was the Sherman which Canadians would use on active operations.

Kangaroo at the Tank Museum, Bovington, England.
The Ram was distributed, for a brief period, to the troopers of the 1 and 2 Canadian Armoured Brigades.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Ram was not admired by the front of line troops.  Some troopers claimed it was necessary to stand behind the tank with a fire extinguisher when starting the engine up.  The ultimate fate of a number of Ram chassis was conversion to a type of armoured personnel carrier, called the Kangaroo. While the Ram is THE ultimate Canadian tank, historical investigation shows that it had its limitiations.

C.P. Stacey, Arms, Men, and Governments (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1970).

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